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Opioids: The #1 Workers’ Compensation Problem

Posted by David Ross on Sun, Jun 16, 2019

Opioids are the biggest workers compensation insurance cost driverIf you want to keep your Workers’ Comp insurance costs down, you need to understand the effects of opioid abuse.

The economic burden of prescription opioid misuse in the U.S. is about $78.5 billion every year including healthcare, lost productivity, treatment, and criminal justice costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health insurers and workers’ compensation carriers bear about one-third of that cost, according to Claims Journal


The result is increased workers’ compensation costs. A 2012 report from Lockton Companies reported that “Prescription opioids are presently the number one workers’ compensation problem in terms of controlling the ultimate cost of indemnity losses. There has never been a more damaging impact on the cost of workers’ compensation claims from a single issue than the abuse of opioid prescriptions for the management of chronic pain.” 

Why is This Happening?

Often, when an employee is injured on the job, a physician will prescribe an opioid for the pain. The Addiction Center reported that in 2012, 259 million opioid painkiller prescriptions were written. According to the Talbot Campus, the US makes up just 5% of the world’s population but consumes about 80% of the world’s prescription opioid drugs. 

The problem is that opiates are one of the most addictive substances available today. The Addiction Center reported that of the 259 million prescriptions written in 2012, an estimated 2 million led to addiction. 

According to the Talbot Campus, prescription opioid drugs contribute to 40% of all US opioid overdose deaths. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that every day, more than 130 people in the US die after overdosing on opioids. 

Furthermore, approximately 5% of those who abuse prescription drugs eventually transition to heroin. 

The Link Between Prescription and Illicit Opioids

Opioids include pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, etc. that are available by prescription. However, many opioid addicts turn to illegal drugs like heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.  The Talbot Campus reported that about three out of four heroin users misused prescription opioids before their use of heroin. 

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is fifty times more potent than heroin, is cheaper to produce and more readily available than heroin. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is primarily used to manage severe pain for cancer patients and end-of-life palliative care. Non-pharmaceutical fentanyl is often mixed with heroin or cocaine – often without the users’ knowledge. 

According to the CDC, there were more deaths involving synthetic opioids (more than 28,000) than from any other type of opioid in 2017. The introduction of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids is currently the most significant concern among opioid experts.

What can you do as an Employer?

Despite these frightening statistics, most people who are prescribed opioids do not become addicts; however, the ones who do are costing U.S. businesses like yours billions of dollars every year.

Thankfully, some precautions can be taken to address pain relief for injured employees. Here are a few steps to take if you want to reduce your workers’ compensation insurance costs.

Educate Your Employees

Make sure they understand the risks of opioid use, how addictive it can be, and how to prevent problems.

Build Good Relationships with Providers

Build a good relationship with area physicians - especially physicians within your network – and pharmacy benefit managers to make sure that they understand the risks of opioid use and how to minimize those risks such as screening patients for addiction, avoiding the use of opioids as the first line of therapy, and conducting urine screenings.

Intervene

If you suspect a case of opioid over prescription or abuse, intervene by talking to another physician, the insurer, and/or the third-party administrator. 

Accidents do happen, and employees do get hurt, but don’t allow the prevalence of opioid addiction exacerbate the effects of those injuries on the injured employee, his or her family and coworkers, or your workers’ comp costs.

 

Want to Lower Your Workers’ Compensation Insurance Costs?

Another way to save on workers’ compensation and other commercial insurance costs is to work with an independent agent who can compare the cost of your insurance with more than one company.

Give American Insuring Group a call at (800) 947-1270 or (610) 775-3848 or connect with us online. Our independent agents will make sure that you get the best price on quality insurance protection. 

Tags: Workers Compensation Insurance, PA Workers Compensation Insurance, Commercial Insurance, Opioid Epidemic

Opioid Addiction Dangers for Construction Workers

Posted by David Ross on Sun, May 19, 2019

Opioid addiction dangers for the construction industry and impact on workers comp insurance costsIt’s difficult to pick up a newspaper these days and not see an article about the opioid epidemic plaguing Americans.

It is a serious issue that is costing businesses millions of dollars every year.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 700,000 people died from a drug overdose from 1999 to 2017, and about 68% of the deaths that occurred in 2017 involved an opioid. The number of deaths caused by opioid overdose – both prescription and illegal – was six times higher than in 1999.

Impact on the Construction Industry 

The construction industry is not immune to this epidemic – in fact, it is hit harder than most. The very nature of the industry makes construction workers more vulnerable to opioid abuse than workers in other occupations. In 2016, 73% of injured construction workerswere prescribed a narcotic painkiller. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, construction workers suffer from substance use disorders at nearly twice the rate of the general population.

7 x More Likely to Die from Opioids?

One study found that construction workers in Ohio were seven times more likely to die from an overdose of opioids than workers in other professions. Another study found that construction workers in Barnstable County in Massachusetts accounted for 25% of all fatal overdoses from the prescription painkillers heroin and fentanyl.  

Higher Workers Comp Insurance Costs

This creates higher workers compensation (WC) losses, and WC insurance costs for construction employees are more than double the average cost for other occupations, according to the Center for Construction Research and Training. Narcotics such as opioids account for 29 percent of prescription costs in workers compensation, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health(NIOSH).

Why is Opioid Addiction Hitting the Construction Industry so Hard?

If you think about it, it is not a surprise that employees in the construction industry have been hit hard by the opioid epidemic. Here’s why:

  • Construction is a dangerous job prone to injuries like sprains, ligament tears, and pulled muscles, which leads to pain and the prescription of opioids to ease the pain.

  • The average age of construction workers in the U.S. is 41. In Pennsylvania, it’s 44. As we age, our bodies don’t heal as quickly as they did when we were in our 20’s.

  • Most construction workers don’t get paid if they don’t work, so many are willing to do what they need to work through the pain.

  • People in their late 30s and early 40s often have families to support, which means they need to work – whether they’re in pain or not. Medication can help ease the pain and allow them to continue to work and to support their families.

  • NIOSH found that adults over the age of 40 are more likely to use prescription opioids than adults 20 to 39.

  • Repeated opioid usage creates a cycle of abuse. In other words, when an employee is injured he or she may change their gait or how they carry materials, which can lead to a second injury. Research shows that a worker who has pain in three or more areas is more likely to become addicted to painkillers.

  • Prescription opioids are often readily available on construction worksites and shared among workers.

  • The stigma around addiction makes it difficult for workers to admit there is a problem

What Can You do as an Employer?

You can help minimize opioid addiction among your workers: 

  • Improve worksite safety to minimize injuries and the need for opioids.

  • Pay attention to your workers’ compensation medical provider network. Some networks limit opioid refills or prohibit physicians from dispensing narcotics leaving that to pharmacists. Some networks control how prescription drugs are reduced.

  • Educate your employees about how opioids work, their potency, drug interactions, and how they can become addictive.

  • Recognize the signs of addiction such as multiple injuries, doctor shopping, or physicians dispensing medications.

  • Provide a strong return-to-work program for injured employees, so they can return to work without provoking another injury.

  • Provide emotional support to injured employees.

  • Let your employees know treatment options such as counseling and pharmaceutical treatment.

The Human Toll

The human cost of this epidemic is astounding, but the financial loss to construction companies is also a concern. In an industry where workers’ compensation costs are already higher than average, adding in the problems associated with opioid addiction can put a real strain on your bottom line.

 

Cut Your Workers Comp and Contractor Insurance Cost – Contact Us Today!

Want to learn more about saving on your insurance costs? Give American Insuring Group a call at (800) 947-1270 or (610) 775-3848 or contact us online.

We specialize in construction and contractor insurance and are aware of the unique challenges you face, including the cost of workers compensation insurance. We'll help you save a bundle while obtaining the quality coverage you need to be well protected!

Tags: Workers Compensation Insurance, Construction Insurance, Contractor Insurance, Opioid Epidemic